Rick Pitino’s coaching hiatus is over. He just needs to go halfway around the world to continue his career.
Pitino is heading to Greece, where Panathinaikos will name him its new head coach, ESPN.com reported Thursday, citing sources. According to the report, it won’t take long for Pitino to start, as he’ll coach his first game on Dec. 27.
Panathinaikos has to hope this professional coaching gig goes a little better than Pitino’s last gig coaching (legally) paid players. The 66-year-old infamously oversaw some of the darkest days in Boston Celtics history, finishing three-plus seasons with the C’s 44 games under .500.
Boston hired Pitino as head coach and president in May of 1997, plucking him from the University of Kentucky. After an OK debut season, Pitino was at the helm for a dreadful 19-31 lockout-shortened season in 1999.
A return to the college ranks saved his career, and Pitino eventually guided the University of Louisville to great success, including a national championship in 2013. That and just about every single other Louisville accomplishment during Pitino’s tenure was ultimately vacated by the NCAA, after it was discovered the program committed numerous violations under Pitino’s watch.
According to the ESPN story, Panathinaikos has a talented roster but has failed to play up to expectations this season. If Pitino can improve their play, perhaps that ultimately opens an NBA door again for the polarizing head coach, as he reportedly still hopes to coach in the NBA again.
Safe to say that probably won’t happen in Boston, though.